Betzko - A Hungarian Legend

Hanford Lennox Gordon 1836 ( Andover, New York, ) – 1920 ( Minnesota)

Stibor had led in many a fight,
And broken a score of swords
In furious frays and bloody raids
Against the Turkish hordes.
And Sigismund, the Polish king,
Who joined the Magyar bands,
Bestowed upon the valiant knight
A broad estate of lands.
Once when the wars were o'er, the knight
Was holding wassail high,
And the valiant men that followed him
Were at the revelry.
Betzko, his Jester, pleased him so
He vowed it his the task
To do whatever in human power
His witty Fool might ask.
"Build on yon cliff," the Jester cried,
In drunken jollity,
"A mighty castle high and wide,
And name it after me."
"Ah, verily a Jester's prayer,"
Exclaimed the knightly crew,
"To ask of such a noble lord
What you know he cannot do."
"Who says I cannot," Stibor cried,
"Do whatsoe'er I will?
Within one year a castle shall stand
On yonder rocky hill
"A castle built of ponderous stones,
To give me future fame;
In honor of my witty Fool,
Betzko shall be its name."
Now the cliff was high three hundred feet,
And perpendicular;
And the skill that could build a castle there
Must come from lands afar.
And craftsmen came from foreign lands,
Italian, German and Jew
Apprentices and fellow-craftsmen,
And master-masons, too.
And every traveler journeying
Along the mountain-ways
Was held to pay his toll of toil
On the castle for seven days.
Slowly they raised the massive towers
Upon the steep ascent,
And all around a thousand hands
Built up the battlement.
Three hundred feet above the glen
(By the steps five hundred feet)
The castle stood upon the cliff
At the end of the year complete.
Now throughout all the Magyar land
There's none other half so high,
So massive built, so strong and grand;
It reaches the very sky.
But from that same high battlement
(Say tales by gypsies told)
The valiant Stibor met his death
When he was cross and old.
I'll tell you the tale as they told it to me,
And I doubt not it is true,
For 'twas handed down from the middle ages
From the lips of knights who knew.
One day when the knight was old and cross,
And a little the worse for grog,
Betzko, the Jester, thoughtlessly
Struck Stibor's favorite dog.
Now the dog was a hound and Stibor's pet,
And as white as Carpathian snow,
And Stibor hurled old Betzko down
From the walls to the rocks below.
And as the Jester headlong fell
From the dizzy, dreadful height,
He muttered a curse with his latest breath
On the head of the cruel knight.
One year from that day old Stibor held
His drunken wassail long,
And spent the hours till the cock crew morn
In jest and wine and song.
Then he sought his garden on the cliff,
And lay down under a vine
To sleep away the lethargy
Of a wassail-bowl of wine.
While sleeping soundly under the shade,
And dreaming of revelries,
An adder crawled upon his breast,
And bit him in both his eyes.
Blinded and mad with pain he ran
Toward the precipice,
Unheeding till he headlong fell
Adown the dread abyss.
Just where old Betzko's blood had dyed
With red the old rocks gray,
Quivering and bleeding and dumb and dead
Old Stibor's body lay.
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Submitted on August 03, 2020

Modified on March 05, 2023

2:56 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 3,006
Words 585
Stanzas 24
Stanza Lengths 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4

Hanford Lennox Gordon

Gen. Hanford Lennox Gordon, prominent among the organizers of the State of Minnesota and for over thirty years a resident of California, died in his sleep Thursday morning at his daughter's residence here. Although given up to die in his thirties and a semi-invalid he attained nearly 84 years. He was a poet as well as a pioneer and shortly before his death revised his "Indian Legends and Other Poems." He won his military title fighting against the Sioux during Minnesota's bloodiest days of massacre, but afterward was a great friend of the Indians and was adopted into the Sioux tribe, an honor granted few white men. He was an officer and organizer of the gallant First Minnesota regiment which made a magnificent charge at Round Top during the Civil War, a feat which he embalmed in majestic verse. After the war he devoted himself to law and lumbering. For years he stood at the head of the bar in Minnesota. He took a strong interest in politics and helped to organize the Republican party in his State. He cast his first vote for Abraham Lincoln and was repeatedly elected to high office. After coming to California he took up ranching and he had a considerable part in the developing of southwestern Los Angeles, having at one time owned all of Kinney Heights. Burial will be at Rosedale Cemetery today. more…

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